This post is part of "Animal Hospital: Intensive Care for the Intensely Loved," an occasional series in which I show you how to make common repairs on your child's favorite stuffed animal. See the first post here. From straightforward fixes, like sewing up a burst seam, to more complex repairs, like replacing paw pads and reattaching jointed limbs, my intention is to help you mend and care for the special softies in your family's life.
When a stuffed animal has been very, very loved it can begin to sag. Being hugged, served tea, used as a pillow (and a tissue), washed and washed again - all of this can leave a special lovey looking rather slumped over. Sometimes the stuffing inside shifts and compresses to such a degree that portions of the body are rendered rather limp and hollow.
To remedy this situation the stuffed animal will need to be restuffed.
I recommend purchasing a bag of polyester fiberfill to use as stuffing. You can find fiberfill at most fabric stores, and even at big box craft stores. Fiberfill is a good choice because a toy stuffed with fiberfill is easy to care for. It can be washed by hand in the sink with warm soapy water, or it can be put in the washing machine on a gentle cycle and you can put it in the dryer without worrying that the stuffing will shift, bunch up, shrink, or otherwise deteriorate.
To demonstrate restuffing a well-loved toy I'd like to introduce you to Crane Man. Don't be fooled by her name: Crane Man is a girl. When I first met her she really stole my heart. Look at those big orange eyes. But she could hardly sit up. Her neck and limbs were totally empty of stuffing and she was very floppy.
To begin restuffing you need to open up the toy's body. Start by searching along the seams to find the area through which the toy was stuffed when it was originally made. If you examine the seams carefully and you'll find one that looks a little different from the others. It may be a bit bumpy or crooked or the fur might be tucked under there. Check along the back, between the legs, and in other inconspicuous areas because those are spots where toy designers often leave openings.
In order to open the seam, you'll need a seam ripper. I don't recommend using scissors because with scissors you run the risk of accidentally cutting a hole in the fabric instead of just cutting the stitches. Use your seam ripper to carefully cut through the stitches at the opening. If you're not sure how to use a seam ripper, I recommend watching this video first.
Pull off small pieces of stuffing, about the size of large gumballs, and push it into the body in the hollow areas. For a really fragile toy like this one I suggest that you use your fingers for this job so that you can be very sensitive to the fabric's strength. A stuffing tool like a chopstick or hemostats could very easily tear a hole in the skin.
Use your palms to rub the toy as you stuff, evening out the stuffing and making sure there are no hollow parts or lumps. You may want to keep the toy a bit squishy or you may want to stuff it firmly. For an old toy like Crane Mane, I recommend going light on the stuffing to avoid bursting thorugh the weaker areas of the fabric.
After I finished restuffng Crane Man I went ahead and repaired some holes in the especially threadbare parts of her body, too.
Crane Man's owner came by to fetch her before I took her "after" portrait, but she is now nice and perky and ready for action.
I hope this installment in Animal Hopital: Intensive Care for the Intensely Loved is helpful to you and if you have any particular stories about the loss or repair of a favorite lovey, please share.
Since I began this project readers have sent me some interesting link related to lovey repair. First, a New York City mother-daughter team that offers a professional lovey repair service and second, a super adorable illustration of special stuffing animals hung out to dry after being washed.
In the next installment I'll be talking about how to replace paw pads. We'll meet a very special world-traveling lamb (she's even been swimming on several occasions) with a most distinctive name: Lamby.